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Watch HP’s Elite X3 Windows Phone simulate a desktop

After spending plenty of time with HP’s Elite X3 Windows Phone, it’s hard not to be impressed by the company’s ambition. It’s just too bad the execution isn’t so great. The Elite X3 builds on Microsoft’s Continuum feature, which gives phones pseudo-desktop interfaces on larger monitors, with Workspace, a virtual environment that lets you run full Windows apps. Together with a Desk Dock and Lap Dock, HP intends for the X3 to serve as both a laptop and desktop replacement. But while Workspace is a decent fix for Continuum’s issues, I don’t think it’s enough to make the X3 a viable option for most workers.


HP’s Elite X3 gets closer to the dream of a Windows Phone as a PC

Everything about HP’s Elite X3 seems like a gamble. It’s the company’s first phone in two years, and it’s the first major Windows Phone device since Microsoft’s Lumia 950 debuted last year. HP is betting big that premium hardware and the ability to use the phone as both a pseudo-desktop and laptop will actually be a boon for enterprise customers. Naturally, too, HP is hoping to tempt businesses away from BlackBerry. But while it’s nice to see the company swing for the fences (like with its gorgeous Spectre 13 ultraportable), it’s not enough in this case to make the $699 Elite X3 a useful device.

Let’s make this clear up front: The Elite X3 isn’t a phone meant for consumers. It’s the sort of thing HP wants businesses to buy in bulk. The company is pushing it as three devices in one: an enterprise-grade smartphone, a desktop replacement (with the $799 Desk Dock bundle) and an ultraportable laptop (with the $1,299 Lap Dock bundle, which also includes the Deck Dock). Those two accessories are powered by Microsoft’s Continuum feature, which transforms the mobile OS into something closer to desktop Windows.

On paper, it all sounds like an IT manager’s dream, since they’ll only have to manage a single device for every employee. But speaking as a former IT worker, it’s clear that HP still has a long way to go before a phone can truly replace dedicated laptops and desktops.

At the very least, the Elite X3 is a sign that HP can build a decent-looking phone. It’s a large device, with a 5.96-inch WQHD (2,560 by 1,400) AMOLED display. But it actually feels good to hold, with curved rear edges wrapped in smooth plastic. Aside from the gaudy chrome strip along the bottom of its case (which houses stereo Bang & Olufsen speakers), the Elite X3 seems like a natural evolution of HP’s designs from the Pre 3 era. Along the back, there’s a fingerprint sensor below the 16-megapixel camera. Up front, an 8MP shooter sits beside an iris camera that serves as a second biometric authentication method.

HP didn’t skimp when it came to internal hardware either. The Elite X3 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip, just like most of this year’s flagship phones. The device also packs in 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, which is expandable with microSD cards as large as 2TB. The phone is also available in single- and dual-SIM models, making it especially useful for international travel. At 192 grams (0.42 pounds), the X3 definitely makes its presence known in your pocket. But at least the weight distribution is such that it doesn’t feel heavy while you’re holding it.

As a mobile device, the Elite X3 is, well… a Windows phone. The platform feels pretty much unchanged from last year, even with the few tweaks from August’s Anniversary Update. That’s not a huge surprise: Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and 950 XL were failures, and the company has been silent about its mobile plans this year. The Windows app store is slowly getting better, but Windows 10 Mobile still has all the same limitations it did last year. The X3’s camera is also surprisingly slow. It stutters before autofocusing (HP says a software fix is coming), and there’s a noticeable delay when you’re shooting photos.

So, you might ask, why even build a Windows phone today? It turns out HP has a secret trick up its sleeve called Workspace. It’s a virtualized environment that lets you run full Windows apps when using the X3 in Continuum mode with its docks. That’s useful, because Microsoft’s much-touted Continuum feature is still as limited as ever, in that it only works with Universal Windows apps, and there still aren’t nearly enough of those around.

You’ll have to pay dearly for the privilege of using Workspace, though. Pricing starts at $49 a month per user, and you’ll be limited to 4GB of RAM, 10 apps at most and 40 hours of usage. Bumping up to the “Premium” tier, which starts at $79 a month per user, gets you 8GB of RAM, unlimited apps and 80 hours of usage. While HP is pushing the X3 as a truly no-compromise, do-everything device, I can’t imagine many people (or their IT departments) will be keen on having their software usage clocked.

I was only able to test the Elite X3 with its Desk Dock, not the sleek Lap Dock (that’s coming later this week, on October 21st). The beefy Desk Dock includes two USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C connection, a full-sized Displayport slot and, surprisingly enough, an Ethernet jack. It has a metallic chrome finish, as well as a rubbery material along its base to keep it in place on your desk. One strange thing: Though this is a device that’s solely meant to connect to an external monitor, HP didn’t include any DisplayPort cables or adapters in the box.

With all the necessary cables connected, I simply placed the X3 on the Desk Dock for it to wake up my monitor and display a Windows login screen. At first, I was astounded at how closely the interface resembled full-fledged Windows, but it wasn’t long before I noticed the limitations. The “Start” menu simply shows you the list of Universal Windows apps you have installed. You also can’t resize and tile apps as you would on the desktop; it’s just a slightly nicer way to use one mobile app at a time.

After a few minutes of testing, the Desk Dock stopped recognizing my Microsoft Sculpt wireless keyboard, even though the accompanying mouse continued to work fine. Eventually, I just plugged in an old Logitech keyboard I had lying around (which severely hampered my typing speed). You’d think even Microsoft’s own hardware would work properly in Continuum mode.

While testing Microsoft-built apps like Edge and Outlook, I also noticed some slowdown, which was surprising given the X3’s Snapdragon 820 CPU. Opening and closing tabs in Edge often took several seconds, and that’s not counting the surprisingly long time pages actually took to load. On its own, it’s clear that Continuum is far from what Microsoft originally promised, so it’s no wonder HP decided to add its own productivity solution on top of it.

HP’s Workspace environment is pretty barebones at this point. Once you sign in, you can launch apps like Notepad (yay?), Google Chrome, the Office 2013 suite, Slack and Acrobat Reader. There’s even Internet Explorer 11 support, which could be useful for companies stuck with legacy web apps (this is how you really know HP wants those enterprise dollars).

If you’ve used any virtualized app before, you’ll notice the same sort of slowdown when using Workspace. It’s fast enough to actually get work done, but there’s a noticeable delay when doing something as simple as typing. I was able to edit Word and Powerpoint documents with ease, and hop into Slack conversations with my colleagues, but I never got used to the slow typing speeds. That may not sound like a huge issue, but it could easily hinder the workflow of fast touch-typists. And take note: These are the speeds I saw when only a few reviewers and HP employees were using Workspace. It could easily get worse once more people hop on.

For all of its faults, Workspace is a decent solution to the endemic compatibility issues with Windows 10’s Continuum feature. It did feel a bit weird to see a countdown timer ticking off how much longer I could actually use the virtualized environment, though. Instead of freeing me from the shackles of juggling many devices, it felt more like being a hopeless corporate drone in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

I’ll admit, my testing of the Elite X3 doesn’t cover the multitude of ways businesses could actually integrate it. But speaking as someone with experience choosing, deploying and supporting a wide variety of IT equipment, this device seems to introduce more problems than it solves. An aging desktop computer would be far more useful to most office workers than the X3’s Desk Dock. And while the Lap Dock sounds good in theory, it’ll likely suffer from similar performance issues (I’ll be testing that soon). With ultraportables getting cheaper every year, it’ll be even harder for IT departments to swallow the $500 cost for a compromised accessory.

The Elite X3 is basically pure potential. It’s the best stab I’ve seen yet at making Microsoft’s Continuum feature genuinely useful. And it could be a compelling mobile option as businesses look beyond BlackBerry. But right now, it’s hampered by Microsoft’s disinterest in mobile and the inherent limitations of virtualized software.


HP will cut up to 4,000 jobs over the next 3 years

HP is no stranger to large-scale job cuts, and it’s unfortunately gearing up for another round. A filing from the PC maker (not the split-off enterprise company) has revealed that it plans to cut 3,000 to 4,000 jobs over the next three years, ending sometime in fiscal 2019. HP doesn’t say what’s prompting the cuts, but it just set its profit expectations for fiscal 2017 (which ends in October) below what financial analysts had been expecting — it could be a matter of recovering some profitability. HP’s computer shipments have been largely flat lately, so it can’t count on a surge in demand to boost its bottom line.

That’s supported by the expected savings. Although HP plans to take on $350 million to $500 million in restructuring costs, it expects to save $200 million to $300 million per year from fiscal 2020 onward. No, this won’t be much consolation to those finding themselves out of work, but it could help HP stay healthy in a mostly bleak PC market.

Via: CNBC, Reuters

Source: HP (Investis)


HP’s new laptops and all-in-one are slimmer than ever

Just as it did last year, HP is updating its convertible, all-in-one and thin-and-light laptop again. This time, the company is making sure its devices are (more than) slim enough for your bags and crowded desks. In addition to losing weight and girth, the Envy 13, the Spectre x360 13.3 and the 27-inch Envy All-In-One and display are all getting refreshed with the latest processors and improved battery lives (for the laptops). While neither the new Envy 13 nor the Spectre x360 convertible can steal the title of skinniest notebook from the Spectre laptop, they’re still impressively svelte with profiles measuring just 14mm and 13.8mm respectively.

Both the new Envy 13 laptop and Spectre x360 convertible offer configurations with the latest seventh-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, up to 1TB solid state drives as well as Bang & Olufsen audio enhancements. They’re supposed to last 15 and 14 hours respectively and support HP Fast Charge. The latter is supposed to bring the laptops’ batteries from zero to 90 percent in 90 minutes of charging.

The new Spectre convertible looks as gorgeous as it did before, but now has a new hinge, smaller size and a so-called micro-edge display bezel that’s narrower than its predecessor. It also has a new dual fan design to keep it cool when it’s running taxing tasks. You’ll get a full HD IPS display and two USB Type C ports that support Thunderbolt 3. In addition to a webcam with a 12 percent wider field of view than before, the x360 also sports an infrared camera that enables Windows Hello for face-recognition logins.

Display options are aplenty on the new Envy. You can pick from full HD, quad HD and ultra HD display resolutions with touchscreen choices starting from QHD. It now has two USB 3.0 ports (one of which is dedicated to sleep and charge), as well as one USB Type C slot. Like the Spectre x360, it also has a narrower bezel.

For those interested in larger systems for the desktop, HP’s also refreshed its Envy AIO 27 to feature an integrated four speaker sound bar and a floating Technicolor Color Certified HD display that is 15 mm thin. The motherboard has been moved to the base to make the screen as thin as it is, and you can pick from sixth-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 chips, as well as an optional discrete NVIDIA GTX 950M graphics card.

The Spectre x360 is already available today, starting at $1,050, while the Envy is out on October 26 for a base price of $850. The Envy All-In-One 27 is expected to retail later this month starting at $1,300.


HP says it should’ve better explained blocking third-party ink

Following a recent update that blocked some third-party ink cartridges fore its printers, HP formally apologized to customers this week for how it communicated about the change. Earlier this month, the company updated its firmware making cartridges made by other companies unusable on its printers. HP cited quality and security reasons for switching up its authentication process. Those third-party options are typically cheaper and as you might expect, customers weren’t happy about not being able to use those supplies.

In a blog post this week, HP admitted that it “should have done a better job of communicating about the authentication procedure.” The company says the reason for the update was to “ensure the best customer experience” and to block any third-party cartridges that don’t contain an HP security chip and infringe on its intellectual property. In other words, the company apologized for the lack of communication, but defended the decision to push the update.

To try and remedy the dust up with its customers, HP is offering an optional software update that will remove the recently added security feature. The company says it will take about two weeks for the second update to be ready, but when the time comes, customers can find information on it here.

“We will continue to use security features to protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems and protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working,” HP COO Jon Flaxman explained in the post.

Via: BBC

Source: HP


Google and other tech titans pledge to help refugees

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and other big tech corporations have joined hands with the White House to help refugees across the globe. They were among the members of the private sector that answered the president’s Call to Action back in June. Now, the administration has published the complete list of participants, along with a short description of what they’re doing for the cause. Google has promised to fund and lend its technical expertise to non-government orgs providing free education to 10,000 out-of-school Lebanese kids. If you’ll recall, the big G also donated $5.3 million worth of Chromebooks to European refugees earlier this year.

Facebook plans to provide free WiFi connection in 35 locations across Greece, as well as to continue working with the UN to give people in refugee camps free access to the internet. Plus, the company will use its website to raise funds for them and to donate funds to NGOs catering to their needs. As for Microsoft, it plans to help NGOs provide wider access to education and training. The company also wants to build an Innovation Hub, where refugees can develop their technical and entrepreneurial skills.

HP has a similar plan, with the aim to build six Learning Studios in Lebanon and Jordan for kids and adults. The same goes for Coursera, which will team up with NGOs to give refugees access to over 1,000 courses offered by universities. Since some refugees still need to learn English or to brush up on their vocabulary before they can jump into learning skills, Zynga is making an educational version of Words with Friends. The social video game-maker will also provide experts to mentor the finalists of a competition that aims to create an app that can teach Syrian children to read in Arabic.

Uber’s and LinkedIn’s projects, on the other hand, will benefit those looking to start working ASAP the most. The former will team up with resettlement agencies in the US to offer refugees work opportunities, while the latter is expanding its refugee initiative called Welcoming Talent to countries outside of Sweden. The other familiar companies in the list are IBM, Twitter and TripAdvisor. IBM promises to continue supporting European refugees and migrants any way it can, while TripAdvisor has already earmarked $5 million for humanitarian organizations. Finally, Twitter is giving NGOs in the US and Europe a $50,000 “Ads for Good” advertising grant.

In the White House’s Call to Action months ago, the administration stressed refugees’ potential to contribute to the countries they fled to if given the opportunity. The companies that decided to pitch in could open those windows of opportunity that might remain close otherwise.

“There are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today, the highest number on record since the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) began collecting statistics. More than 21 million of these people have crossed international borders in search of safety and are registered as refugees. The despair that drives these people to flee their homes is heartbreaking, but their resilience is awe-inspiring. Refugees are a valuable, untapped resource and, if given the opportunity, can thrive and contribute wherever they reside.”

Via: Mashable

Source: White House


HP buying Samsung’s printer business for $1.05 billion

Samsung’s board has approved the sale of its printer operation to HP for $1.05 billion “to concentrate on its core business areas,” it said in a press release. It plans to spin off the printer division into a separate company as of November 1st, then sell it its US rival, pending shareholder approval. Samsung’s printer business employs 6,000 people and sold 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) in printers in 2015.

In its own news release, HP said that the deal is the largest print acquisition in its history. The US company sees it as an opportunity to “disrupt and reinvent the $55 billion copier industry, a segment that hasn’t innovated in decades.” It aims to basically to replace copiers completely with multi-function printers. “Copiers are outdated, complicated machines with dozens of replaceable parts requiring inefficient service and maintenance agreements,” it said.

Samsung says it will “source printers from HP and continue to market [them] in Korea under the Samsung brand.” For its part, HP has a long term deal with Canon to sell its printers and copiers. The US company recently launched “Multi Jet Fusion” 3D printing tech, and plans to release 3D printers this year starting at what is a apparently a relatively low $120,000.

HP will get Samsung’s 6,500-strong patent portfolio and 1,300 engineers and researchers. Samsung Vice-Chairman Jay Y. Lee — heir apparent to Chairman Kun-Hee Lee — will also take a seat on HP’s board of directors. HP mentioned that the acquisition will bring “cost synergies,” which is often a codified way of saying “layoffs.” There’s no word on how severe those could be, but the company is hosting a press conference in a couple of hours, so we’ll update this article if need be. The deal is expected to be finalized within a year.

Via: The Verge

Source: HP


AMD ships its extra-efficient 7th-generation processors in PCs

While Intel is busy revamping its laptop processors, AMD is focused on the desktop side of personal computing. The chip designer has started shipping its 7th-generation A-series processors in desktop PCs, starting with machines from HP and Lenovo. The CPUs are based around as many as four Excavator cores, rather than the coveted Zen cores you’ve heard about lately, but that should still get you a lot of performance per watt. If you believe AMD, its 35- and 65-watt processors deliver the kind of speed that previously took over 90 watts — the A12-9800 is about as fast in a general computing benchmark (PCMark) as Intel’s Core i5-6500, and roughly twice as fast in graphics (3DMark) if you’re relying on integrated video.

As you might guess from the testing, visual performance plays a big role. On top of a newer DirectX 12-friendly graphics architecture, the new processors tout native video decoding for 4K video in both H.264 and H.265 formats, taking a large load off of your system while you’re watching Ultra HD movies.

The efficiency angle is a familiar one for AMD, and not surprising given that it’s the company’s main advantage. You’re still looking at higher-end Intel Core i5 and i7 chips if you’re focused on raw performance in a desktop. With that said, this may be worthwhile if you want a glimpse at AMD’s future. The 7th-gen A-series is the first processor line based on AMD’s new AM4 platform and the interfaces that come with it, including support for USB 3.1 and NVMe solid-state drives. At least some of the technology you see here will carry on for multiple hardware generations.

Via: VentureBeat

Source: AMD (1), (2)


HP Pavilion Wave PC looks like it’s wearing a B&O speaker

Is that a speaker? Or a router? Those are questions my colleague actually asked me when I showed him my photos of the HP Pavilion Wave. He was wrong on both counts, but it’s easy to see why he was confused. The Pavilion Wave is a 10-inch tall desktop that will be available Sept 23 for a starting price of $550, and from my brief experience with a preview version, it’ll be a beautiful, adequate addition to a modern house.

HP was able to squeeze a sixth-generation Intel chip, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 2TB hard drive (or 1TB solid state drive) into this compact tower thanks to a triangular, tri-chamber design. Inside the device are three separate zones that house the motherboard, a hard drive and thermals. These three chambers surround a speaker, which pumps out sound upwards. At the top of the tower is a parabolic reflector which then sends the music out in 360 degrees, and also acts as a vent to let out heat.

The Pavilion Wave was designed around its audio system, and I enjoyed the crisp, round notes coming out of the speaker during our demo. It offers Bang & Olufsen Play tuning for enhanced sound in low, mid or high ranges.

Unlike other traditional desktop towers, or even HP’s fancier gaming ones, the Pavilion Wave blends in with the rest of most home furniture. It’s not small enough to be completely inconspicuous, but I appreciate its subtle understated design.

If you want to fully deck out your home office, the Wave is there for you, too. With three USB 3.0 ports and slots for USB 3.1 Type C, HDMI, DisplayPort, Gigabit ethernet and microphone/headphone, there are plenty of connectivity options. The PC will also support up to two 4K displays at once, and its onboard dual microphones make it ready to listen for your Cortana voice commands.

During our demo, the Pavilion Wave correctly heard a request for the weather, and Cortana returned the answer through the device’s speaker. Although it has Bluetooth capability, the Wave can’t be used as a standalone wireless speaker, but you can always play your music through the Windows 10 OS, then shut off your monitor to get a similar experience.

While it’s easy to get a mini PC to replace your chunky desktop tower, those machines don’t often provide satisfying power for intensive tasks. The Pavilion Wave, despite its familiar looks, could be a great option for those who need speedy performance in a pretty, relatively petite package.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.


HP’s Elite Slice is a modular PC that actually looks good

I think HP’s completely sick of making traditional-looking desktops and is out to make them look like anything but. In addition to a PC that looks like it was shoved inside a Bang & Olufsen speaker, the computer maker also released the Elite Slice modular desktop. And it looks like a cross between Discman, a router, and a set top box. Despite that weird combination, I actually really like the Elite Slice — not just for its looks, but also for what it does.

HP’s not the first to make modular components for a PC. Lenovo actually brought that idea to life with its Thinkpad Stack last year. But the Stack was a set of magnetic accessories for your laptop, whereas the Slice is a standalone PC with modules that you can snap on to add capabilities. Plus, HP’s device just looks so much slicker.

The Elite Slice is designed for business and office use, and its base model’s specs (and $700 price) reflect that. The 2.31-pound device houses an up to sixth-generation Intel Core i7 and runs Windows 10 Pro. It also offers enterprise-level security software, including HP BIOSphere and HP Sure Start to detect and manage threats. You can hook up displays, keyboards and mice to the system through the two USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 2.0, DisplayPort and HDMI ports. The base unit also comes with ethernet and headphone/microphone jacks, as well as onboard dual mics and an optional fingerprint sensor.

But the modularity is where it gets interesting. Each module, including the PC piece, has a USB C-like port, called the HP Slice Connector, on its bottom. These let you connect more components to the PC. At launch, you can pick add-ons such as an audio module (with Bang & Olufsen enhancements), an optical disk drive and what HP calls a Collaboration Cover.

We saw this accessory in action at a demo. Place it on top of the Slice, and it turns the desktop into a Skype for Business phone (if you have a subscription). With the cover on, you can initiate a preset Skype call just by touching a capacitive button on the shell. Each Slice with the Collaboration module can have its own Skype number, effectively setting up a phone network without actual phone lines.

During our preview, HP guided us through making a call by tapping the green phone button. After the call connected, we spoke to an HP rep who demonstrated the onboard mic’s ability to pick up his voice even as he walked to the other end of a small room. He explained that he didn’t need to raise his voice, and indeed, he didn’t appear to do so. And regardless of his distance from his own Slice, his voice didn’t get dramatically softer.

In 2017, HP will also offer a wireless charging cover that will let you recharge your compatible devices by dropping them on top of the Slice.

Although the add-on selection is limited for now, the Elite Slice is definitely an attractive, intriguing option for crowded offices that need portable desktops and want to do away with traditional phones. In the meantime, I’m holding out for a consumer-friendlier version for my tiny apartment.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

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